London // Brendan Rodgers claimed Liverpool are hitting top gear at the right time as they booked their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Liverpool have now lost just once from their last 16 games in all competitions. The Merseysiders are making a charge for a Uefa Champions League return in the Premier League.
Rodgers’ side are still in the hunt for silverware in the Europa League and now they are three victories away from ensuring Steven Gerrard signs off with an FA Cup winners’ medal.
Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana helped Liverpool earn the comeback 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Rodgers admits England striker Sturridge’s return from a long-awaited injury that has wiped out over half of the season cannot be underestimated.
He said: “Danny is working his way back. It’s about extending his game time.
“I have to do that or you risk reinjuring him, and that’s something we can’t afford.
“You can see his qualities, his speed and his touch.
“The team is functioning at a high level at the moment. His return gives us a big boost for the last part of the season.”
Fraizer Campbell handed Crystal Palace a first-half lead at a ground where Liverpool had not won since 1997.
But Sturridge kept up his amazing FA Cup goal-scoring run by notching his 10th goal in 12 games to haul Liverpool level.
Adam Lallana clinched the fifth-round win and Rodgers said: “The last time we came here in the league earlier this season we lost and it was a low one. It was the making of the team really.
“And the players’ character has been tremendous.
“It’s been incredible since, really. Hopefully it will continue now until the end of the season.”
With the outgoing Gerrard absent, stand-in Jordan Henderson stepped into his shoes with a man-of-the-match showing.
Rodgers refuses to compare the two players, with Gerrard bound for the MLS next season, but said: “Nobody fills Steven Gerrard’s boots. He’s one of the best players in the history of the Premier League.
“Jordan’s a different type of player. Steven Gerrard’s quality, he still has that, way above most players in the world and certainly in our team.
“I wouldn’t even start writing comparisons. Jordan is a wonderful young player who works tirelessly at his game, the ultimate professional who prepares himself every day for training and games and could be a future captain here.
“But don’t compare him to Steven.”
Palace now have a Premier League survival fight on their hands and Alan Pardew insists his side are not out of the woods.
The Palace manager said: “The league is going to be very tough. Aston Villa and QPR have new managers.
“We need to be very focused on that. But, really and truly, this was an opportunity for us and I was disappointed with how we played today.
“That was one of our worst performances under me in terms of possession. We are a lot better than that overall, and we need to prove that against Arsenal next week.”
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